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O’Hearn’s poetry has the ability to separate the casual observer of poetry-as-craft from the engaged reader, who chooses to implicate their own act of reading with the dense coils of emotion and imagery that O’Hearn offers. Here is compact elliptical imagery forged in the crucible of ambivalent experience. There is a lot of awareness, stunning discovery, resistant hopes, and recalcitrant experiences barely veiled and given import through the energy of her nimble verse. From the poem, “Antabuse,” a disturbing meditation on the intimate prisons of domestic abuse: “in his throat / I scream for keys / clang my cup / against his cage of bones.” From the reflexive writing in the poem simply entitled, “Poetry,” we encounter the same sense of spare, forensic diction: “you make me / spare / clinical / numb.”

O’Hearn’s poetry pulls you in several directions at once. This is love poetry for those who bristle at the very thought of love poetry. Sentimentality is burned away in the purging fires of closely observed experience. O’Hearn’s poetry ceaselessly attempts to connect the inner struggle to larger social arrangements, and she does this with a prodigious use of imagery, carefully chosen word play, considered rhythm and a tight structure; a posing of irresolvable experience that edges you forward along untrammeled paths of discovery. (Rob Teixeira)

by Sheila O’Hearn, $6.50, 48 pgs, Burning Effigy Press, Toronto, ON,

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